The internet sure does love cats, and match-three puzzle games are in no shortage of popularity. So really, what better than to combine the two? That’s where Combat Cats by developer New Horizon Games comes in. But will it be able to fulfill all your feline fancies?
Combat Cats’ story is pretty basic. Kitty Island is a peaceful haven, plentiful with catnip. That is, until one day when all the catnip disappears. Seems the local aquatic life has a bone to pick with catkind, so its up to Kitty Island Homeland Security and its brave fighter pilot squad to defeat this bubbling menace and get back the catnip. Leave it to cats to have a war for drugs.
While Combat Cats is fairly typical, it does change up a few things. For once, it’s a match-four game, not three. Plus, there is far more flexibility in matching than the typical puzzle game. A myriad of shapes are allowed, so long as at least four similar blocks are connected in some way. Everything happens very quickly in each level. While tempting to go full-out with a barrage of weaponry, it’s important to keep track of your health in later levels as things become increasingly harder. The aquatic alliance has a few tricks up its sleeves, including bubbles that will sometimes appear on top of your blocks, obscuring them and keeping them from matching from with others until you pop them.
While primarily a block puzzler, the game has action/rpg elements to it that increase the stakes. Your kitty pilot has a life meter, and all the blocks have different effects, such as repairing your ship (healing you) or dishing out different kinds of damage to your enemy (shooting rockets, poisoning them, etc). There’s even an occasional nuclear bomb block that blows out an entire row of either horizontal or vertical blocks and deals out massive damage to your fishy foes. All of this serves to fight and hold off enemies until you can reach the end of the level, at which point you will be awarded up to three stars depending on how quickly you finished.
The stars are not just a way to rate your play, however. Each subsequent level requires a higher number of stars in order to access it. If you don’t have enough, you’ll have to go back to previous levels and try to do better to earn more stars. While this does give the game a bit of replay value, this is where its mobile trappings become apparent. Besides stars, you get cash and catnip after each level which you can use to upgrade your blocks/health and buy different ships. While not terribly hard to get more currency with which to upgrade, it is slow enough that without dishing out some real world cash, it becomes easy to lose interest after a while unless you’re really dedicated. Luckily, if you don’t mind this, the prices are pretty fair.
Control-wise, the game is satisfyingly smooth. The mobile version features standard one-finger tap controls, while the desktop version only requires a mouse to play. Both are quick and responsive, however I personally found the desktop version easier and visually clearer to play since there’s so much going on during the game.
The pixel-style art is cute. If you like cats, it’ll be quite adorable, and there’s several familiar feline faces to be seen in the bunch. The music itself, is, unfortunately, nothing to write home about. It’s fairly forgettable, but at least in the mobile version it’s always present. A few levels in on the desktop PC version, the music straight up stopped. I eventually had to restart the game to end the eery quiet. Luckily, this is the only performance issue I found while playing.
Overall, though, despite adding a few twists to the traditional block puzzler, Combat Cats is just too typical to really stand out amongst the rest. After playing through it, I asked myself, “Did I have fun?” Well, no, not that much. The smooth controls are really the highlight of an otherwise standard and somewhat bland game. Unless you really really like cats and are in desperate need of another match-three block puzzler, honestly there’s not much of a draw. It’s just okay.
Combat Cats will be available on the Google Play store for Android and the App Store for iOS on September 9th. PC/Mac/Linux versions are still in development, though there is a version for Windows 8 already available. The game is also up for voting on Steam Greenlight.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose. The Windows and Android versions were used.
© 2013, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.